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Open your mind by reading books with unlikable characters

Novelist and creative writing teacher Charmaine Craig had something to say recently about whether it is better for our development as contributing members of society if we give up our obsession with the echo chambers of our own likes and dislikes, and seek growth in the unfamiliar.

The problem with only liking things we find relatable

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/problem-liking-things-find-relatable/

Empathy and Outrospection: a video from RSA

This is an animation (03 Dec 2012) featuring the ideas of philosopher and author Roman Krznaric, in which he explains how we can help drive social change not by the introspection so favoured in the 20th Century, but in the 21st Century by stepping outside ourselves and embracing what he calls Outrospection.

RSA Animate – The Power of Outrospection
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG46IwVfSu8

This is one of a series of animations created for the RSA by Andrew Park and his firm Cognitive Media.

In its own words: “The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) [is] an enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges. Through its ideas, research and 27,000-strong Fellowship it seeks to understand and enhance human capability so we can close the gap between today’s reality and people’s hopes for a better world.”

You can visit its website at http://www.thersa.org/.

More from the RSA: The Divided Brain

In this RSA Animation (24 Oct 2011), psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist looks at both the theory and history of the ‘divided brain’, and how it has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society. He warns how wholesale embrace of left hemisphere virtues is leading us in directions that are dehumanising and ultimately not in the best interests of humanity and society.

RSA Animate – The Divided Brain
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFs9WO2B8uI

Matthew Taylor and 21st Century Enlightenment

Matthew Taylor is the RSA’s Chief Executive, and in this animation video he explores how the idea of 21st Century Enlightenment could help us meet today’s challenges.

As this video sums up many of the concerns of this website, we’ve decided to feature it on our home page.

RSA Animate – 21st Century Enlightenment
http://youtu.be/AC7ANGMy0yo

Vale Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

The Passing of Nelson Mandela

Photo of Nelson Mandela taken in 2008

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela 1918-2013

Today South Africa has lost the first President of its modern era, a man who has come to be regarded as “father of the nation”.

Commentaries on political figures are not usually within the scope of this blog. But Mandela was extraordinary, and his legacy profoundly relevant to the principles of Eurythmia – which aims to give the inspiration and means to regain and retain balance and harmony in the face of all that life throws at you.

And the quote above surely represents a true modern concept of sainthood – an honest recognition that one is not perfect, in fact subject to all kinds of deficiencies. But also an almost superhuman aspiration and determination to overcome your faults and become the best person you can be. And to make a difference in your community!

The “Long Walk”¹ to Saint Madiba

At the same time that South Africa has lost its beloved Madiba, the world has lost one of the great historical and inspirational figures of the last century. If you could count five great people of the previous 100 years who have had profound positive influence over the course of human events, or whose lives and work have inspired people far beyond what could normally be expected – to almost ‘miraculous’ effect, then one of those five must be Nelson Mandela.

Such greatness was not something one might have expected of a person who spent 27 years of his life in prison during the repressive and racist apartheid regime ruling life in South Africa between 1948 and 1994.

During that time, Mandela evolved into an inspirational figure both within and beyond South Africa. But the process of quasi-beatification to living saint really began as he gradually came to epitomise the feelings of great hope for humanity precipitated by the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. What followed were people-powered, mostly peaceful collapses of many repressive regimes around the world, especially in the old Soviet system.

Mandela became a symbol of this new 90s spirit of freedom and hope. Released by the de Klerk government in 1990, he began working together with his former enemies and de Klerk in particular to transition South Africa peacefully into a fully representative democracy. The efforts of Mandela and de Klerk were recognised by the world community in 1993 with their sharing of that year’s Nobel Prize for Peace. Since then, their real growing friendship and respect for each other has come to symbolise the ideal of the growing together of their respective communities.

And while real progress for many in South Africa under Mandela’s successors has been disappointing, his great gift to his nation and the world was to become the living embodiment of evolutionary unification and sincere reconciliation. Foremost in this has been his complete repudiation of any spirit of retribution that might well have been the result of his and his people’s mistreatment over so long.

Let his words speak for themselves

Finally, it is best to let Mandela’s own words carry his most profound messages. These will not generally be the quotes to be found in most of the political or historical obituaries you will read today. But they do represent the Mandela that Eurythmia so admires:

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

“You will achieve more in this world through acts of mercy than you will through acts of retribution.”

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”

“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite… Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never explained.”

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

“Nothing is black or white.”

“Tread softly,
Breathe peacefully,
Laugh hysterically.”

“When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.”

Rest in Peace, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

 

¹Reference to one of Mandela’s autobiographical works:
Mandela, Nelson (1995). Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, Back Bay Books

 

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